N E Way. Bright and early on the morning of April 6, I traversed the wilds of East Boston and presented myself to a small conference room in a large chain hotel near the airport to take my NSCA-CPT, paper n' pencil edition. Here's the thing. The NSCA has two ways it will allow one to take their certifications. One is the nifty twenty first century computerized, get-your-results-immediately-after option which can be taken at various (I'm totally serious here) H&R Block locations at your own convenience. You just pay, schedule a date, take the test, and find out if you've passed. The second is the old skool #2 pencil, fill in the lil oval blanks on your score sheet in a proctored room then wait a few weeks for results experience we all remember from out SATs that occurs in certain cities on a few select dates. I chose option #2. Why, Andrea? you ask. That seems stupid!
Well, kids, two reasons. First of all, if it's not patently obvious, I am a huge procrastinator when it comes to certain things.*** When I decided last fall that I was going to pursue this certification and saw that the test was going to be offered here in early April, I realized that having that firm date as the day I HAD to take it was going to serve me better than scheduling it at my leisure. Otherwise 20 months were going to go by as I told myself I wasn't *quite* ready to take it yet and maybe I ought to study a few more weeks. Secondly and more importantly, they charge you less to take this test the old fashioned way. And they charge you even less if you choose early registration. It may not be obvious from the number of pairs of expensive shoes in my closet, but I am
Back to our story. I did manage to procrastinate enough on my studying that the week before was a huge review-everything-I-ever-read and try-to-cram-it-into-my-brain panic experience. I had bought the (expensive!) practice test package from the NSCA which turned out to be quite helpful. In my studying frenzy, however, I found myself getting stupider by the minute. I sent a friend a semi-panicked text the day before the exam which said something like "omfg the more i study for this test, the worse i do on the practice exams!" to which the response was "um, maybe stop studying?" Ah, my friends, what would I do without them? Sigh. I didn't heed that advice. In fact, the morning of the exam I was in the hotel lobby an hour early furiously reviewing chapters of the CPT manual on my kindle in between stress-induced trips to the restroom. About twenty minutes before they let us into the room, I switched to playing a relaxing game of Tetris**** instead. So it's not like I was cramming until the very last minute. She said in her own defense.
There were five other, um, frugal people taking this exam with me on this sunny Saturday morning. Interestingly (to me at least) there were three of us ladies and three guys; the guys all appeared to be in their twenties, the ladies all over forty or at the very least 35. I'm not sure what to make of those demographics. Women my-age-ish all wanna make career changes? Young women into fitness aren't confident enough to want to teach it? Old guys and young women aren't so cheap they'll actually pay extra to go to H&R Block? I dunno.
Just a few things about the test. The first 35 questions are video questions. Not my favorite because they are, necessarily, timed. They show you a video clip, you answer the question, they go on to the next and there's no going back. This is contrary to my own (probably most people's?) preferred way of test-taking. Sometimes you just need a little time to mull over the correct answer. But this was an area the practice tests did prepare me for somewhat. Wouldn't have wanted to go in there not having experienced the format for those. The rest of the questions were just your average standardized test multiple choice questions. The funniest part (oh, in retrospect) was that the proctors had told us they would announce when we had an hour left--out of three--and twenty minutes left. There were 200 answer spaces on the test sheet and when "one hour left" was called, I had just answered question 120-something. Holy crap! I semi-freaked. I am NOT a slow reader, kids, and I have never had a problem running out of time on tests. I started reading questions really fast and not mulling. Then I turned over another couple pages in the test booklet and realized that, oh, there's 200 answer spaces but only 150 questions. D'oh. I had plenty of time to reread the questions I'd blown through and make sure I hadn't made any mistakes. Oh, Andrea.
Perhaps my favorite part of the whole exam was the guy seated directly to my left at the next table. He was perhaps the youngest of us, a black kid with long dreds who appeared to be only twenty or twenty one. I could see him in my peripheral vision and he was doing exactly the same thing I was doing: acting out some of the various exercises the test was asking us about so he could feel what muscles were working, etc. It made me feel very warmly disposed towards him (as did, let's be honest, his youth...it might not be obvious in my bitchy sarcasm, but I am extremely maternal in nature): kinesthetic learners of the world, unite! Hope you passed, Long Dreds Kid!
Hope I passed too. We'll know in about five to seven weeks, I guess.
***true fact: I'm writing this as I procrastinate on what I'm really supposed to be doing this morning
****if you're having an old skool experience, go old skool, yo